Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Tribe

I am particularly squashed right now.

My mother can no longer walk, so she can't go home to the lovely assisted living community she has been a part of for over two years now. They cannot handle the level of care she now needs.

I am in the midst of transitioning her into a nursing home now (and it is breaking my heart).

So I need to dissolve all but about two suitcases of her entire life. All while my children have a MONTH left until school starts up again, with only a week of non-mom supervision scheduled.

I have so much I want to say here, but no time to write, even though the words are bubbling up inside me, yearning to break free.

I am sure some night soon I will be up way too late, writing anyway, as the bottled up words just cannot stand.

But until then?

I do not want my blog to suffer, lonely and forlorn waiting for my attention. So I have made the decision to bring some of my guest posts back home, especially posts you may have not read, that seem relevant to current circumstances.

As I have just come back from this year's BlogHer conference, I thought I would start with this post, about finding my tribe of bloggers.

And in case any of you are in doubt, this weekend confirmed ever more than before for me: Blog friends ARE real friends, indeed.

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I am of an age. Older than many other mothers of nine-year-old boys.

I have belonged to many tribes in my 51 years of life on this planet.

In the beginning, obviously, there were the tribes I was born into, happenstance of ancestry and geography: Jews, native New Yorkers.

Then other, subtler tribes, born of the choices my parents made: the tribe of only (sometimes lonely) children, the tribe of Bohemian artists, which I must say was much larger when we lived in Manhattan, shrank to the miniscule when my family moved to the flatlands of Long Island.

Then there are tribes of circumstance and identity that coalesce among school-age children. Mine were of the bookish variety, including the Educated Apes & Pigs – the name the “regular” kids coined for those of us in the Enriched & Accelerated Program, or EAP classes in my elementary school.

We didn’t care what they called us. A group of too-smart-for-their-own-good kids together? Is a very good thing. For two years we with our own, exclusively, and could relax for once. It was glorious.

Then through the tumbled, tumultuous years of adolescence and teenagery, like so many others, I stepped into and out of tribes, trying on and shedding groups and identities; seeking the true and the comfortable, shedding old and too tight skins.

Choir nerd / theater nerd / tech squad / artist / vegetarian / hippie / feminist / punk

Then more of the same in college. But fine tuning it, getting closer to the core, to ones that stuck around for a while:

For a long time I was a radical lesbian-feminist, a member very insular and exclusive group. There was a tremendous sense of identity there, a fierce belonging, a complete subculture and I was one of the tribe, lavender-dipped down to my skin.

And then?

I changed.

It was hard to leave such a tight, interconnected tribe, to step out into the world as just me.

But the inside was evolving and no longer matched the outside. Another skin to shed.

Moving back to New York in my mid-twenties in the mid-eighties, the world was wide. I spun through single gal – married woman – divorcee – married again.

For a while I was in the tribe of the infertile. That one was hard. Rock and a hard place hard.

And then, most transformatively of all, I joyfully, and with many tears, joined the Mom tribe, frequently anointed in pee and poo and leaky breastmilk.

My life, before, ever expanding, contracted for a time into that fiercely insular world of infant parenting: a few blocks bounded by the parks, the nearby stores that sell diapers, teething toys and baby tylenol, the pediatrician’s office, the kid friendly cafes.

I left my square mile infrequently. But within were many other members of my weary tribes: older new mothers and mothers of twins.

In the past few years I have, unfortunately been inducted into tribes not of my own choosing.

Although I have embraced it whole-heartedly and learned of its gifts, joining the tribe of Autism Mothers was quite a shock. Unwelcome at first, to say the least.

And then there’s the Dead Dads Club whose membership card comes, eventually, to all who enter the tribal cave of the elder-care-givers. Once again this was thrust upon me. But it is a weight I bear with love, my 89-year-young mother still my charge.

Which brings me to this, the tribe I find myself among today: the tribe of bloggers, we of the writing kind.

I did not know I had not yet found my people. I sat in the middle of so many belongings, I felt so connected. How could I have suspected there was more?

But then one day I transformed my words into little packets of ones and zeroes and pinned them on a virtual page I called my own.

I had no idea what I was doing.

I just needed to shout into the wilderness, to hear my own voice amidst the cacophony of special needs children and dying parents.

I wrote and wrote.

And then I began to read.

And then I joined a blogging community. Or two. A group blog. A conference.

And one day I realized: my ghostly, virtual friends were as real and important as my flesh and blood friends.

And that I was Blogger.

That this was my true tribe.

And that it took me fifty years, but I had found my people, oversharers all, and come home.

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 To read my post as it appeared initially in October 2011, go here to my friend Katie's blog Sluiter Nation.


  1. Me, too.

    Finally, after a lifetime: my people.

    I love you, Varda.

  2. Varda I am thinking of you. I remember watching my mom go through these changes with my Grandma, how painful it was. xo

  3. I love this post about finding your tribe. I also feel a part of this tribe (among others of course). I also agree with eventually bringing guest posts home - I may quote you as there is one I want to publish on my own blog and don't know how the original host will take it. Good luck with your Mom - I have an only daughter (it wasn't a choice esactly) and I only pray that she grows up like you.

  4. I suppose I feel that perhaps life is a continual shifting of tribes and rearrangement of membership, and I'm feeling the need to write about something similar. There's been a new shift here with the end of school days for my one NT child, and the end of the connections with some of the mums of her friends, not my choice though. But understandable I guess.

  5. Everyone, I mean everyone, I know in the same age group is going through the same thing with aging parents and balancing current obligations. Hang in there and we will too


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